Despite two recent pit bull attacks in the area, a call to ban the breed in York City isn’t likely to get very far.
Still, it was enough to raise the hackles of bully-breed lovers and animal rights advocates.
Lincoln Street resident Heather Pratt attended Tuesday’s York City Council meeting to ask for tighter restrictions on the ownership of “dangerous dogs.” Earlier, she said banning the “inherently dangerous” pit bull breed should be the goal.
“This really is an issue of public safety,” said Pratt, an attorney who lives across the street from a woman attacked July 4. “There are things that can be done that would increase the safety of the public.”
Retired teacher Bonnie Cole was mowing her lawn that holiday morning when three pit bulls escaped from their yard and repeatedly bit her. The 62-year-old suffered major injuries, was hospitalized and is undergoing rehabilitation.
The dogs’ owner received six summary citations from the city’s animal control officer.
The day after that attack, two pit bulls injured a 78-year-old man and killed his small dog in Spring Garden Township.
The dogs later were euthanized, and their owner pleaded guilty to several charges related to the incident.
Although Pratt contends “the right of the dog owner doesn’t trump the right of society at large,” the state Legislature says pit bull lovers don’t have any lesser rights than, say, a cocker spaniel owner.
State law dealing with dangerous dogs does not address breeds — and specifically prohibits municipalities from doing so.
“Those provisions of local ordinances relating to dangerous dogs are hereby abrogated. A local ordinance otherwise dealing with dogs may not prohibit or otherwise limit a specific breed of dog,” the law reads.
It’s pretty clear a pit bull ban by the council would invite lawsuits the city most likely would lose.
We’re not saying that’s right. We’re just pointing out a fact.
So where does that leave Pratt and others who, it seems, have good reason to fear the breed?
Even an advocate for pit bulls acknowledges a problem, although York County SPCA executive director Melissa Smith adds “irresponsible pet ownership” — not the dogs — is to blame.
Pit bulls are among the most neglected, abused, unsocialized and over-bred dogs, Smith said. The sheer number of them in the community coupled with the cultural trend among irresponsible humans who mistreat or fight the dogs results in attacks, she said.
Smith is probably right, and plenty of responsible pit bull owners took to The York Dispatch Facebook page to defend their best friends.
If people are the problem, the York City Council should pursue avenues that would make it less likely pit bulls end up at the mercy of bad owners – such as a special license for the breed, which Smith mentioned as a possible alternative.
The national ASPCA has a whole list of alternatives to breed-specific bans, including enhanced enforcement of dog laws and dog leash laws, with fines high enough to cover the extra work. And owners of all breeds should be held criminally liable for injuries and damages caused by their dogs.
A breed ban isn’t feasible or, perhaps, desirable. But officials in York City and all municipalities should be making sure they’re doing everything possible to protect their citizens from all dangerous dogs.